The Victorian state government’s budget papers for 2013-14 that were presented before the state parliament on Monday, gave a bleak and glum picture of the state’s future.
Faced with declining revenues due the dropping numbers of tourists, overseas students and GST pay outs, the Napthine government was expected to undertake deep measures that were aimed at either boosting revenue generation or reducing expenses or both.
Under the newly proposed budget, the Napthine government would fork out $8billion for the construction of the first phase of the East-West Link connecting Clifton Hill to Parkville, whereas millions of dollars would be spent on upgrading and repairing existing roads in various parts of suburban Melbourne.
In health care, the government has announced that it would spend $400million towards building a new children’s hospital next to the Monash Medical Centre in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton. The budget papers further informed that $160million would be allocated as new funding to the Bendigo hospital.
The government has also announced that it will spend nearly $420million over the next couple of years with the aim of cutting through the rising backlogs of patients seeking elective surgeries.
Despite these blue-chip offerings, this budget will fail to deliver for Victorians just as the previous budgets presented under Ted Bailieu’s leadership did. It is more of a pain, than a gain.
The Napthine government’s failure to allocate funds for major educational projects in regional Australia is condemnable. Studies have shown that populations of Victoria’s regional centres have increased in recent years.
Castlemaine’s population has doubled whilst Bendigo too has been adding new residents in its locality every year. In Western Victoria, Ballarat is fast becoming the hub for youth training and employment, yet no investments have been announced in the budget for educational institutions or hospitals there.
That health care in regional Victoria is deteriorating fast, is a fact beyond any doubts or arguments. Patients from remote regions like Daylesford, the Surf Coast, Traralgon, Wendouree and other places have to travel long distances in order to attain high quality medical treatment for all sorts of preventable and near-fatal illnesses.
The government’s failure to allocate more generous and well-meaning funding to the medical units in the regions speaks much about the incorrect prioritizing of funding allocations that have been a living legacy of the governance paralysis that Victoria is currently facing.
The government’s decision to raise car registration fees by a whopping 38 per cent tells much about its intention of getting more money out of the pockets of struggling Victorians. Despite the widely reported congestions on Victoria’s trains, trams and the Vlines, the state government’s refusal to allocate new funding for more trains and better infrastructure is mind-boggling.
The subsequent increases in revenues that these new measures and the increase in traffic infringement penalties would bring will not be invested in Victoria’s public transport infrastructure.
It is equally careless on part of the government, not to be taking up the Rodd Eddington report that called for an underground road and rail link between Caulfield and Footscray. By not taking up the recommendations of that report, the Napthine government has confirmed to voters that cheap political point scoring was more important to the government than the welfare of the people.
The government’s failure to close down loss making enterprises is also condemnable. Despite Ted Bailieu’s election promise about closing down the Wonthaggi desalination plant at the last election, the government continues to dole out public money to the plant which has not even produced a litre worth of recycled water over the last many months.
According to the budget papers, taxpayers would be footing an astronomical bill of $426million over the next year to keep the plant still operational.
Education is another area that will suffer over the next year. Education spending has been cut by approximately $80million and no funds have been allocated towards funding the Gonski reforms.
By not including any budgetary allocations for implementing the federal government’s reforms, the Victorian government has made a bold statement suggesting that it would go at it alone in the state, even if that risked jeopardizing the future of Victorian students.
Despite some sweeteners, this budget will clearly inflict more pain and damage on the Victorian economy and society. A budget which people expected would help create more jobs and allow the economy to restructure itself as per the needs of the modern times, has clearly failed to live up to the expectations of the people.
Rather than making this government look like an administration that was committed towards initiating long term reforms and nation building projects, the budget papers portray the premier and his cabinet as a bunch of lazy and out of touch individuals without whom the state would have been much better off.